A UNION claims that an equal pay award for home carers could cost £10 million to a Scottish council as it pushes for the local authority to pay backdated wages. 

Home care staff employed by South Lanarkshire Council will now be paid the same as workers in residential homes after a long-running evaluation of their role and responsibilities that involved a court appeal.

Hourly pay for workers will be increased by at least £3 an hour following a combined campaign by trade unions, including GMB Scotland, to fight the council’s initial decision to refuse the carers equal pay.

READ MORE: South Lanarkshire Council workers will equal pay appeal

The unions won a second appeal last week and now demand the rise is backdated to the start of the evaluation process in October 2020, which they say will ring up a bill in the millions.

South Lanarkshire Council was asked to confirm the wage bill but declined to answer the question. 

Home carers rallied at the council HQ in Hamilton as GMB Scotland called for the new hourly rate of at least £16.24 to be paid retrospectively.

The local authority counters that the pay rise is dependent on staff training for an additional qualification and, therefore, workers are not entitled to pay back as they did not have the SVQ award at the time. 

Union officials, however, argue staff roles and responsibilities are not changing.

GMB Scotland convenor Harry Scott said it was "right and fair" that South Lanarkshire Council agreed home carers be paid the same as their colleagues. 

However, he added: "It is also right and fair for that pay to be backdated to when this process began. 

“The pay evaluation was based on what home carers do and have been doing for years not on what they might do one day. The pay must be backdated. It is deserved and we will fight for it.

“Our members will be happy to train for a new qualification but their role and responsibilities are the same today as when this process started.”

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A role previously known as “home help” has, the union claims, become more complex in recent years with additional responsibilities, including giving personal care, administering medication and drugs, and assisting with medical procedures.

Pay has not increased to reflect those additional duties and, after the unions twice appealed the decision to refuse equal hourly rates for all carers, South Lanarkshire Council agreed the increase. 

GMB Scotland organiser Cara Stevenson said: “This is a significant pay award that illustrates the value of the work done by home carers. 

"The council now needs to do the right thing and backdate it.”

South Lanarkshire Council said the work of home carers is hugely valued and should be recognised and rewarded.

Kay McVeigh, Head of Personnel Services, said: “Following additional information presented at the appeals process this month the grade outcome increased. Along with this was a requirement for our Home Care workforce to achieve the appropriate SVQ Level. 

“This requirement means the increase cannot retrospectively apply to a period when that qualification was not held or being worked towards. 

"However, the council will support the workforce in gaining this important qualification and will upgrade the staff from 1 April 2023, rather than waiting until they have completed the SVQ.

“We will continue to discuss the outcome of the appeal process with our trade union colleagues.”